A Taste of Home at Doug’s Place in Emerson, GA
When Melissa Ferguson married Doug years ago, she had no idea that, 17 years later, she’d be running a restaurant in an historic building. But that’s exactly what happened.
Melissa and her late husband created a place where you feel like you’re at home, and the simple flavors of food done right shine through.
It’s almost as if your [insert favorite cook here, for example, grandma/mom/great uncle] had started a restaurant and you have a free pass anytime of day, for some mighty fine country cooking. It might be a freshly made country breakfast, a hamburger on the grill, or a Sunday lunch complete with roast beef and gravy and all of the delicious side dishes you want.
Enter the historic old general mercantile building through a screen porch. Doug’s Place is nothing fancy. You don’t have to dress up and you don’t necessarily have to be on your best behavior. Instead, you’ll hear, “Hey, hon, sit anywhere. I’ll be right with you.” Or you might hear, “Have you had supper? Well, come on in.”
Start with some sweet tea (or one of the new fountain drinks) and your waitress will take your order from the menu sheet neatly tucked into a pocket on the wall. The menu changes daily, sometimes seasonally, and there is usually a great special every night.
Quickly, almost magically, homestyle dish after homestyle dish appears on the table. Country-style fried chicken livers, fried chicken, country fried steak & gravy, and beef tips over rice were recent meat choices. Vegetables included mashed potatoes (made from scratch); pinto beans (seasoned for hours); and Silver Queen cream corn. Maybe you want the I-only-get-it-at-holidays sweet potato souffle.
Melissa said, humbly, “It’s just simple country cooking, but our customers really seem to like it. I’ve been so blessed. I think some of the items on the menu, like sweet potato souffle and chicken & dressing, are seasonal items, but I couldn’t not have it. Some people may have come from a pretty good piece away, and it’s their favorite.”
I asked her what was ordered the most, and without hesitation, she said, “Chicken livers. People don’t cook them at home anymore. We keep it simple but we like variety.”
Both of her sons (Aaron and Zander) now work with Melissa to run the restaurant. She especially likes to mix things up with good values such as all-you-can-eat catfish, two sides, and bread for $7.99 on Friday nights. On Wednesdays, it’s steak night, and you can bet the after church crowd heads to Doug’s Place. I keep trying to find an excuse to go more often; it’s about 6 miles outside of Acworth straight up Highway 41 towards Cartersville.
Bob and Shirley Black of Cartersville make the drive often. Ms. Shirley said, “We come here for the food. You can’t beat the food, and we come here about four times a week. We’re past the age of cooking supper, and we come year round.”
As I’m speaking to her, a gang of noisy, giggling girls comes to the door, all still dressed in their red and black softball uniforms, with bows in their hair. I realize that this is a true community hangout, where new moms can bring a fussy baby, grandparents can bring their grandchildren, and Mom and Dad can get a break from cooking and still get a home-cooked meal. It’s a place where you’ll get a smile or a wave along with your hot biscuits.
It’s much more than just another meat-and-three diner.
There is a group of men that eats breakfast on a regular basis at Doug’s Place. Melissa laughed and said, “They call themselves the ‘Liar’s Club’ and they are here almost every morning.” The Liar’s Club members, for the most part, knew her husband Doug. She also knows her customers, and said it would be just fine to mention Scott Templeton, Gary Keys, and Clarence Stephens as some of her original customers. Customer Ed Landers recently arranged to have live music on the porch on Friday evenings in the summertime; this past Friday, it was bluegrass gospel by Bruce Weeks Family Band.
But back to the food. Here are just a few of many reasons why it’s so good: they cook their gravy in a cast-iron skillet, they still peel all of their own potatoes, and they bread their own okra. They still make homemade salmon patties and potato pancakes. “We use real fresh rutabagas and squash when they’re in season. We do it the way that people like, but they don’t have time to do anymore,” said Melissa.
I don’t have time to smoke my meats, and I’m guessing that others don’t, either. So, Aaron smokes the meats, including succulent ribs. If you’re lucky, you’ll be in when they have their BBQ Special: smoked 1/2 rack of ribs with two sides and bread for $7.99. I doubt you could make it at home for that price.
And since you’ll feel so at home at Doug’s Place and won’t get bored because of the changing menu, you won’t have to cook at home. Ever. Again. Really.
Are ya’ll hungry now? Come on in for breakfast, lunch, or supper. You’re welcome anytime.
Doug’s Place is located at 696 Georgia 293 (right off of I-75N) in Emerson, GA 30137-2059; tel.(770) 382-9063. Menu hotline 770-382-8069. Open Mon-Fri 6am-9pm, Sat 7am-9pm, and Sun 9am-3pm.